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na-ma-shi-va-ya - Does it simply mean salutations to shiva..?

pancAksara means five akSaras or five indivisible syllables. For eg. the shiva pancAksara 'namasivAya' has to be seen as five aksaras na, ma, si,vA, ya and not just as salutations to Shiva. Shiva pancAksara stotram explains each syllable, with every stanza starting with one syllable.

This is not just in saMskrt literature. In tamil literature like devAram, sambandar says the same.

துஞ்சலும் துஞ்சல் இலாத போழ்தினும்,
நெஞ்சகம் நைந்து நினைமின் நாள்தொறும்;
வஞ்சகம் அற்றுஅடி வாழ்த்த, வந்த கூற்று
அஞ்சஉ தைத்தன அஞ்சு எழுத்துமே

Sambandar calls namasivAya as the sacred five letters that kicks off Yama, removes deceit, in all circumstances, if our 'aham' is immersed in it daily. Similar to Shiva pancAksara stotram, thirumUlar thirumantiram explains what these five syllables means.

சிவன்,சத்தி, சீவன், செறுமலம், மாயை,
அவம்சேர்த்த பாச மலம்ஐந்து அகலச்
சிவன்சத்தி தன்னுடன் சீவனார் சேர,
அவஞ்சேர்த்த பாசம் அணுககி லாவே.

He says si indicates sivan, va the sakthi, ya the matter/beings, na the self/ identity of beings and ya the mAyA, the evolutionary process. This Shiva-shakti which is the Energy-Momentum couple or Consciousness-Signaling couple (siva) manifests in matter/beings (ya) creating self/identity (na) and triggering the evolutionary process (ma).

ThirumUlar goes one step ahead. He says it's all only 'Si'. He calls 'Si' the mantra for chasing dogs. How do we chase away dogs..? By saying 'chee chee'.

நாய்ஓட்டும் மந்திரம் நான்மறை நால்வேதம்;
நாய்ஓட்டும் மந்திரம் நாதன் இருப்பிடம்;
நாய்ஓட்டும் மந்திரம் நாதஅந்தம் ஆம்சோதி;
நாய்ஓட்டும் மந்திரம் நாம்அறி யோமே.

This Chi Chi (the chi of chiva), the dog-chasing mantra is what is described in all four vedas, is where 'He' resides, is what makes all the light and sound, is something that we can never know. So everything is simply Chi, the dog-chasing mantra.

அஞ்சுஎழுத்தி லேபிறந்து, அஞ்சுஎழுத்தி லேவளர்ந்து,
அஞ்சுஎழுத்தை ஓதுகின்ற பஞ்சபூத பாவிகாள்!
அஞ்சுஎழுத்தில் ஓர்எழுத்து அறிந்துகூற வல்லிரேல்
அஞ்சேல்அஞ்சேல் என்றுநாதன் அம்பலத்தில் ஆடுமே!

The same concept is described by Sivavaakiyar in the above. Five letters is what the panch-bhUta and us are. If we are able to understand just one letter, 'He' would dance in our cosmic space or we would realize 'His' dance in our cosmic space.

Hence, namashivAya, as pancAksara, cannot be just treated as salutations to Shiva and that's all. It conveys a deeper meaning, a mantra and hence called panca-akSara. Mantras are those that conveys deep meanings if we really understand them well.

From the above discussion, I can put forth four understandings

1. There are remarkably similar thoughts in tamil and saMskrt. Like what is said in shiva-pancAksara or thirumular thirumanthiram.

2. Saiva siddhanta (as described in devaram, thirumanthiram etc) and advaita tattva are not far from each other. In fact they say similar things. Shiva is the Universe, Shiva is the prosperity or auspiciousness, Shiva is the jyoti/light, Shiva is the witness of the self etc are similar to brahman is the Universe, manifestation in our self as the witness, tat-tvam asi etc. This realization is the ultimate jnAnA. Bhakti to shiva is to be used as a tool or path towards this realization or jnAnA.

3. Mantras convey deeper meaning. The reason for their recitation is for people to introspect and realize those deeper meanings.

4. Worship does not mean praising something and asking for boons or simply submitting to something and be satisfied with it. It is about developing a detached self in us which enables us to learn from others and nature dispassionately, to face everything with equilibrium and equanimity and reach a detached witnessing state that desires happiness for everyone.

mahA periyavA in several of his discourses repeats this concept of using bhakti or devotion as a path to jnAnA.

Shiva panchaksaram in tamil, essence in english

Tirumantiram describes the panchakshara in depth dividing it into

1) Sthula( articulate)
3)Ati Sukshma( super subtle)

Its very detail.
Multi layered.

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